Lockdown has proved to be a blessing for Rani Akka, the alleged dumping mafia whose business extends near Eastern Freeway towards Mahul. The woman in her late 50s has more than 70 cases against her. She is openly dumping soil and destructing the wetland and mangroves on the stretch, unhindered.
The woman mostly operates during the wee hours of the night and early morning. But during the monsoon, she can be seen working during the day amid heavy showers.
“She is often spotted standing under a black umbrella during monsoon surrounded by local goons and her son-in-law. Rani Akka oversees everything is person ,” said a source.
Sanjay Rathod, a local activist from Chembur and a member of the Shiv Sena party, confirmed about the dumping and said, Rani Akka had an history of dumping in the area and we have many times complained against her.”
He added that since the lockdown, the dumping is on the rise. As per the rule any debris from the city is to be dumped at the dumping yards located in Bhiwandi or Alibaug area.
“But they have a target of 10 to 20 trucks per night. To save money, time and manpower, the debris is often dumped illegally within the city limits with the help of local goons and by bribing the officials” added Rathod.
Babu Jadhav another local activist from Chembur claims not a single wetland across Mahul and the freeway area is spared: “Rani Akka does every odd job from theft of windows to iron rods, and dumping of debris. Dumping garbage within the city limits is good business as the work of a week is done almost overnight and people are willing to shell out the money for it," added Jadhav.
Whether it is the beat marshals or the security personnel of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) nobody seems to be able to spot these illegal acts. The woman is also a local Robin Hood of sorts as she is always there to help the locals in times of need, be it a marriage or medical emergency. Hence, not many are willing to speak up against her illegal practices in the area.
She openly dumps at the wetland behind the Imax theatre and at an MMRDA plot located inside Ganesh Patel Nagar, near Mysore Colony railway station. Mohan Londe, the head of security guard station at the MMRDA plot, said: “No complaint has been filed yet. Our senior officials visited the site. There is a BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation Nullah work going on at the stretch and vehicles keep coming from the area. We keep a watch and will take necessary actions.”
Stalin D, an activist who has been consistently campaigning against illegal dumping on the wetlands said: “The entire stretch of wetlands from Wadala to Chembur towards Mahul is destructed by the dumping mafia and this should be promptly stopped.” He also pointed at the nexus between the dumping mafia and the local police. “Most of the times the local police is aware of the goings-on but simply ignore it or pass the buck to the forest officials,” added Stalin.
Sopan Nigote, senior police inspector, RCF police station, Chembur said: “The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation authorities regularly take action against the dumping.” When questioned about Rani Akka Nigote said, “We will have to check the record to see how many cases she is booked in.”
Neenu Somraj, deputy conservator of forest (mangrove cell) Mumbai said: “We had received complaint about dumping across the wetland near Wadala. We had forwarded it to the district collector.”